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We welcome French cultural anthropologist and philosopher Martin Fortier on the show for this episode to discuss his research into how culture influences cognition. His current Ph.D. research project consists of exploring the interplay between neurobiological processes and culture in hallucinogenic experiences. His main fieldwork is located in Shipibo communities of the Middle Ucayali, in the Peruvian Amazon.

Martin Fortier, Ph.D. Candidate, is currently a doctoral student at Institut Jean Nicod (a lab hosted by the Department of Cognitive Studies of ENS-Paris) and at the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences of EHESS-Paris. He is also a visiting student researcher at the Department of Anthropology of Stanford University.

I got in contact with Martin to explore 3 specifics areas of investigation and I was amazed at how quickly our rapport developed and all the nuanced places it took us. The 3 areas were his work comparing the subjective elements of various types of hallucinogens between each other, as well as waking state, dreaming and psychosis. The second was his model for psychedelic hallucinations as being metaphorical perceptions, wherein “Conscious perception—e.g., vision of a spirit—is the result of a complex tradeoff between top-down predictions and bottom-up prediction errors.” Finally, I wanted to pick his brain about how, as a western scientist, he mitigates cultural appropriation and the colonialization of consciousness when living, working, and studying indigenous people and culture. As you can see in the episode breakdown below, these three areas opened a vast array of juicy concepts to discuss.

Aside: my side of the audio is not super great (a bit quiet and mechanical).
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Episode Breakdown

  • Martin’s educational history and experience.
  • The Sense of Reality; how we build models of the world and how/why we believe it to be real.
  • Feeling reality vs. judging reality.
  • The experiential differences between serotonergic/psychedelic drugs (psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, etc) and anticholinergics/deliriants (datura).
  • Experiential qualities: waking state vs serotonergic psychedelics vs. cholinergic psychedelics vs. dreaming vs. psychosis.
  • .Ayahuasca/hallucinogenic visions as metaphorical perceptions
  • Unpacking how the most valuable things in life are fiction / the hard problem of consciousness.
  • Rationally exploring the hallucinogenic entities/spirits phenomenon.
  • The role of the shaman.
  • Honouring the indigenous cosmology while researching it from a western scientific framework / mitigating cultural appropriation within anthropological research.
  • Scientific framework vs. indigenous cosmology.
  • The nature of schizophrenia and psychopathologies and the potentials of ayahuasca shamanism as a potential treatment.
  • Will psychedelics be important to philosophy? Should philosophers take psychedelics?

Related Links

Alius Research Group

Interdisciplinary research group on the diversity of Consciousness

Martin Fortier’s Homepage

Here you can find a complete collection of Martin’s various work and his academic CV.

Martin’s page

Here is a collection of Martin’s various published (and nearly published) academic and civilian writings.

Are Psychedelic Hallucinations Actually Metaphorical Perceptions? (article)
The Sense of Reality in Hallucinogenic Experiences: A Comparative Study of Serotoninergic and Anti-Cholinergic Plants (video Lecture)


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